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Putting Together an Ideal Home Office, Part 1

By Rob Kay & Jeff Bloom

There’s no getting around it. Anyone who gets started in business will have to purchase a whole slew "office technology" products ranging from computers to voice mail services. There is a bewildering array of gear out there and it can be a confusing ordeal to determine what exactly you need and how much you should spend.

This is the first of a two-part series on how to put together an ideal home office. The equipment we looked at is not necessarily the most expensive nor is it the cheapest. As a matter of principle, it’s not really a good idea to always get the least expensive product. Remember that dictum about being penny-wise and pound-foolish? Well it applies to technology as well. On the other hand… you don’t need to buy a Mercedes to get to the supermarket when a Toyota will do just fine.

Office Computer

This will be the heart of your home office. You don’t need the fastest Pentium III if you’re just surfing the Net, writing letters or corresponding by email. Machines powered by a 400 Mhz Pentium II, a newer Intel Celeron or a K6-II or K6-III microprocessor from AMD will also do just fine. If you want to buy Hawaiian, a local company such as PDC Systems in Honolulu can provide a perfectly functional machine for about $1000 (not including monitor). If you feel safer with the brand names you can mail order very dependable boxes from Dell, IBM or Quantex. (These brands were determined to be the most dependable in a reader’s survey from PC magazine.)


Don’t skimp on your monitor! If you’re sitting in front of a computer all day you want and need something that is easy on the eyes. We like the 17-inch size rather than the 14 or 15 inch style. Check out the NEC MultiSync E700 ($550 street), the Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 87TXM ($540 street), and the Sony CPD-200GS Multiscan ($580 street). More price-sensitive buyers should take a look at the Hansol 700P ($400 street) and the Shamrock C709 M5 ($430 street).


Rob and Jeff’s 11th commandment says "Thou Shalt Back Up". In other words, a complete home office must have some type of backup system. Tape backup units from HP or Seagate start at around $200 for up to 8 gigs of storage whereas you can purchase a 20 gig backup unit for around $400. Other alternatives to consider are rewritable CD Drives such as the HP SureStore CD-Writer Plus 8100I (for about $265) or removable storage drives like the SyQuest SparQ 1.0 GB for around $200. Whatever you do make sure your data is backed up.


Nowadays one can purchase a combination printer, fax and copy machine. If you really don’t have the resources this is a good compromise but unfortunately it’s still a compromise. If you have the funds it’s better to get a separate printer. We like models from Hewlett-Packard or Epson; the best and reader’s surveys also confirm that they are rated the most dependable. For offices that do a lot printing we prefer the laser printers to the ink jet models. However you can’t "dis" the quality of inkjet printers nowadays. You can get an excellent office laser printer such as the HP 1100 or the HP DeskJet 895Cse Professional Series inkjet printer for $400.


Voicemail can be obtained from the phone company or from the many independent voicemail providers (that can be found in the yellow pages). Or, you can always purchase a decent answering machine from an office supply store or Costco for around $50. If you are a hardcore geek you can even install a perfectly adequate voicemail "card" and software on your computer. However, that is probably overkill for most average users.

We think you should opt for some kind of voicemail service either from GTE or a private local concern such as Voicemail Hawaii. Both offer full service voicemail for about $15 per month which includes forwarding messages to pagers and cell phones. (Note that GTE has a very basic service plan with no forwarding capabilities for about $7 per month). If you are a consultant who is often out of the office and needs to be directly contacted where ever you may be, Voicemail Hawaii offers a $20 a month extra option that will have a live operator track you down via pager or cell phone to "hand deliver" the message on a 24/7 basis.


As in any business, a home office tycoon will have to juggle incoming calls, perhaps take part in three-way conference calls or require features such as speed dialing, caller ID readouts, call forwarding and hand free speakers. You also might need a cordless option so that you can grab calls when you are emptying the garbage or eating lunch. With these features expect to pay $100 – $400 for a decent phone. Again, steer away from getting the least expensive item. You’ll end up having to purchase a better one later on.


So far we’ve spent about $2300 for a computer, monitor, tape backup (or another method of storage), phone and a printer. In our next column we’ll look at the means of connecting to the internet (via modem, cable modem or ADSL), fax technology, scanners, and products that will protect your computer from power outages or spikes in the electrical current. Stay tuned!

Rob Kay is a Honolulu-based public relations practitioner who works with technology companies in Hawaii and Silicon Valley. He can be reached at rkay@pactechcom.com or 539-3627. Jeff Bloom is the founder of Computer Training Academy/Network Resource Center, a computer education/consulting firm based in Honolulu. His contact is jeffb@cta.net or 839-1200.

Pacific Business News - Friday, July 30, 1999

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